Choosing an executor to distribute your collection

By Jesse Robitaille

This is the second story in a four-part series exploring estate and succession planning.

Executors carry a considerable burden any time they’re called to carry out an estate plan, even for relatively small estates with few assets.

Collectors should consider whether post-mortem or “inter vivos” (Latin for “between the living”) estate planning would best suit their needs. While the latter offers more certainty your dying wishes will be fulfilled, the former opens the door to uncertainty that sometimes has to do with the executor’s ability to distribute your assets according to plan.

“It’s stressful, and you’re not usually in your best frame of mind when someone close to you has passed,” said Toronto collector and lawyer Ian Speers, referencing the emotional turbulence of acting as an executor.

A Fellow of the Canadian Numismatic Research Society, Speers also belongs to the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association, Toronto Coin Club and Canadian Association of Token Collectors.

By day, he’s also a real estate lawyer, legal educator and the current chair and president of the Canadian Bar Association real property section.

Even if you’re planning to sell your collection while you’re still alive, Speers recommends considering other, less favourable circumstances, including becoming incapable of managing your assets.

“When we talk about a will, wills only come into effect when you have left us,” he said. “If you are in a situation where you have some deterioration or traumatic accident and you’re no longer capable to manage your assets, you get into issues of guardianships.”

In those situations, you would want to name a power of attorney to manage your assets.

“If you are incapable, you can give a specific grant to a named individual to act as your attorney,” said Speers, who added in Canadian law, “attorney always refers to … a substitute decision maker; it’s not a lawyer.”

When drafting a power of attorney, you should also determine the breadth of their powers.

“Is it going to be limited to specific assets, so you’d have one person who’s authorized to deal with your coin collection and another who’s going to deal with your general day-to-day things, like making sure the rent is paid wherever you live.”

Speers also noted if a collector is worried about the potential incapacity to manage their assets, they should understand their province’s specific requirements.

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